Gartner shows the way

Gartner’s prediction that 80% of internet users will be in virtual worlds within four years is already bouncing around the blogosphere. Don’t percentages lend a lovely credibility to a forecast? Would you believe them if they said 79%?

Their advice to clients: investigate and experiment with, but limit substantial financial investments until the environments stabilize and mature. Good advice, if somewhat obvious. Almost all corporate investments will be in the range of $20,000 – $100,000. That buys you a lot of Second Life and it’s not going to break the bank of any Gartner client.

Gartner has ‘identified five laws’ for companies entering virtual worlds. It’s clear on reading them that Gartner don’t actually have a working definition for what constitutes a law, however there is sound thinking in what Steve Prentice says. Which is to say, I agree with him. Here are my thoughts on his five laws.

1. Yes, it is a mistake to approach Second Life as a sales channel.
2. Yes, if you’re a big name, you’re going to be a target. Look what some wits did with the clothing given away to promote the movie 300. (Link via New World Notes).
3. Yes, it is a mistake to approach Second Life as a sales channel. Evidently this law applies twice. I see Second Life as an interactive 3D advertising channel, as an interactive entertainment medium and as a global micro-economy.
4. Yes, if you’re a big name, you’re going to be a target. Three laws were never going to be enough.
5. Yes, there may well be a merging of virtual worlds into open-sourced environments with a single, universal client. That process will be driven by Linden Lab and Second Life will be the underlying platform for all virtual worlds. Here’s why:

Virtual worlds rely on sophisticated user content. The users (animators, graphic artists, programmers, entrepreneurs) are already embedded in Second Life; they’ve invested a lot of time in learning how it all works and they’re not going to want to leave behind their social networks and their body of work.

When these people take their content into other environments, there will need to be rules that govern ownership and transfer of ownership. Those rules will be the Second Life “permissions”. Other virtual worlds will need to conform to these. It makes Linden Lab the legislature for virtual world economies going forward.

Here are my five laws by the way:

1. Establish a presence
2. Involve your own employees
3. Focus on the collaboration side
4. Involve your own employees
5. Focus on the collaboration side
6. Work with really smart consultants

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